Pfizer sales of COVID-19 vaccine, pill beat forecasts as company prepares for future waves

Pfizer on Thursday reported higher-than-expected sales of its COVID-19 vaccine and Paxlovid antiviral drug in the second quarter, as slower U.S. vaccinations were offset by growth overseas, keeping it on track to reach about $100 billion in revenue this year.

Sales of Pfizer and partner BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, sold as Comirnaty, rose by 13% to $8.8 billion from a year earlier. Paxlovid revenue, meanwhile, reached $8.1 billion, driven by strong uptake in the U.S. where it had more than 90% of the market for oral COVID-19 drugs, the company said.

Pfizer reaffirmed its previous full-year sales guidance for both Comirnaty and Paxlovid at $32 billion and $22 billion, respectively. Both figures would surpass last year’s sales for AbbVie’s anti-inflammatory drug Humira, which was previously the world’s top-selling medicine before Cominarty eclipsed it. 

Pfizer still expects its total full-year sales to grow to between $98 billion to $102 billion.

The company confirmed that it will seek U.S. approval of a “bivalent” COVID-19 vaccine targeting strains that are most in circulation, in line with a late-June recommendation by the Food and Drug Administration to update shots for omicron subvariants called BA.4 and BA.5.

“We plan to submit the BA.4/5 bivalent vaccine candidate for emergency use authorization in the U.S. in preparation for the fall booster campaign,” Pfizer’s chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said in prepared remarks for a Thursday conference call.

The submission, Dolsten added, would be based on safety and immune response data from adults vaccinated with the company’s BA.1-adapted shot, supplemented with preclinical results for the BA.4/5 version. U.S. health officials have been mulling multiple approaches for the next round of boosters. The FDA’s recommendation to include BA.4 or BA.5 strains in boosters would bypass other candidates developed, including Pfizer’s single-valent version that showed promising data in June and a BA.1 bivalent version that began a Phase 2 study this week. Dolsten said they expect clinical data from the bivalent study this fall.

Pfizer also aims to develop “next-generation” COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Dolsten said.

Sales of Paxlovid have outpaced Merck and Co.’s antiviral Lagevrio, which Merck on Thursday reported earned it $1.2 billion for the quarter, mostly in the U.K. and Japan. Pfizer CEO Albert Bouria said there is “substantial opportunity” to expand Paxlovid’s use outside of the U.S.

Pfizer is exploring a clinical trial to study the efficacy of a second round of Paxlovid in COVID-19 patients, but “this trial won’t be easy for Paxlovid”, investment bank Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat wrote in a note to clients. Raffat noted that the bar for success would be higher in patients already treated once, and could be even more difficult to meet if the FDA requires Pfizer show a benefit on hospitalization rates. 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the guidance range for Pfizer’s full-year revenue. The correct range is $98 billion to $102 billion, not $101 billion. 

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